FRANCONIA >> It’s effectively filed the drama of late January away.
Now, the focus of Upper Perkiomen’s wrestling contingent is on forging a bright present … and an even brighter future.
Three Indians came out of Friday’s action at the South East AAA Regional tournament with good feelings, and determination to maintain them. Jacob Folk and Michael Modugno remain in the gold-medal hunt at their respective 160- and 220-pound weight classes while Jared Kuhns is working out of wrestlebacks at 113.
It all puts to rest the upheaval the UP program faced when head coach Sam Walters announced his resignation on Jan. 23. Assistant coach Jake Engle was elevated to interim head, charged with stabilizing the situation as the team faced the bulk of its Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division slate and the District 1-AAA Duals competition.
“It’s behind them,” Engle said. “After the initial blow, they put it behind them.”
The program’s trio of post-season qualifiers have Hershey in their sights … after getting through Saturday’s competition at Souderton.
“We all want to work hard to get to states,” Folk, who scored a 6-5 decision of Downingtown West’s Giovannia Angelini in his lone encounter Friday, said. “We’re doing it for the coaches.”
Folk has already exceeded last year’s regional showing. He went 0-2 in 2016 after having to deal with an unusual medical condition.
“Last year, I was in the hospital being treated for my cauliflower ear,” he recalled. “The medication I was taking made me throw up.”
Modugno qualified for states off a third-place finish at regionals his junior year. Like Folk at the current level, he’s looking to improve on a two-and-out at states.
He’s crediting assistant coach Ryan Kemmerer, himself a state-caliber grappler, with helping him pave a straight path to the Giant Center.
“He’s worked hard with me, on certain things I worked at my last match. He’s keeping me going forward.”
Kuhns also has prior regional experience, the junior with an 0-2 outing at Souderton last year. He started out with a 2:57 pin of Chichester’s Jeremy Gannon before running into Downingtown East powershouse Lukas Ritchie, who scored a pin one second before the second period ended.
“It’s what we expected,” Engle said of his team’s post-season showing to date. “Three horses who’ve gotten to this point. So far, they’ve looked good.”
And the hopes for all three moving on to Hershey gets stronger at each step along the way.
“They all expect to get to states,” Engle said. “We talked to them before the start of every match, telling them every match could be their last at this point.
“They have to go at it like their season could be over.”
* * *
Jakob Campbell spent the week in the company of some top-flight Boyertown wrestling alumni; namely, Jordan Wood and Matt Malfaro.
Not face to face, but on the area’s career win chart. En route to his championship finish in the District 1-AAA West Tournament last weekend, Campbell upped his win total to 149 … the same number Wood — his former teammate from the Class of 2016 — and Malfaro (Class of 2010) achieved during their storied careers.
But with a new tournament on his itinerary this week, Campbell was ready to move upward. And move up he did, getting win number 150 during Friday’s quarterfinal round of the South East AAA Regional tournament.
The Boyertown senior reached the mark in fine fashion, too. He scored a 4:27 pin of Pennsbury’s Antonio Martoccio to become his program’s fourth grappler to hit that total, and the 13th from The Mercury’s coverage area.
“150 is really big,” Jakob said, “and I have a lot of people to thank for reaching it. But I came here to be a regional champion, and I’m shooting to get two wins off the bat tomorrow.”
He admitted being concerned at the start about how his twin brother, David, was doing in his 120-pound quarterfinal with Council Rock North’s Aidan Burke. That proved a minimal distraction, however.
“He (Martoccio) caught me off guard,” Jakob said. “I was focused on how my brother was doing. But I ended up wrestling my match.”
A gold medal will be the crowning moment of Campbell’s four-year tenure as a force in the Southeast Region. He’s medaled each of his three previous trips, scoring silver as a freshman and junior and bronze as a sophomore.
It will also give Jakob a unique “fourpeat” of qualifying for the state tournament — a distinction that will be his alone within the Boyertown program.
And on another note, the two wins that will secure that achievement will tie Campbell with another former teammate (Lucas Miller, Class of 2016) and Upper Perkiomen alumni Ryan Kemmerer (2010) and Wolfgang McStravick (2013) at 152.
A total of 15 wrestlers from Pioneer Athletic Conference schools are still in the regional gold-medal chase.
Few could compare with Chase Smith’s showing at 182.
The Spring-Ford senior, coming out of the District 1-AAA West tourney with a silver medal and 22-13 record, came out of Friday’s first round with a 4:49 pin of Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Scott Henry. That put him in the dubious position of facing Central Bucks East’s Collin Stevens, who sported a 33-0 record through his 1-AAA East title showing last weekend.
Smith turned “dubious” into “fabulous.” He scored a 4-1 decision on Stevens to send the Patriot upperweight into wrestlebacks and put him one win away from a championship-round pairing, pending the outcome of his semifinal with Avon Grove’s Kevin Edwards (29-2).
Elsewhere in the field, Boyertown’s Matt Wilde (113), Chris Berry (152) and Elijah Jones (182) stayed with Jakob Campbell in the championship bracket. They all won their weight classes at the PAC and district tourneys the last two weeks.
Owen J. Roberts, currently second to team leader Council Rock South (40-35.5), has five semifinalists in Luke Resnick (120), Antonio Petrucelli (132), Daniel Mancini (145), Ryan Resnick (160) and Nick Duliakas (195), The Wildcats are followed in the team standings by Boyertown, third with 26.
Spring-Ford’s Brandon Meredith (113), Methacton’s Bryce Reddington (145) and Pottsgrove’s Pat Finn (170) are the PAC’s other semifinalists.
NOTES >> Saturday’s session starts at 9:30 a.m. with first-round consolations, followed by championship semifinals and second- and third-round consolations at 11:30 a.m. The 6 p.m. medal round will be preceded by the region’s Hall of Fame presentation at 5:30 p.m., and the Parade of Champions at 5:45 p.m. … The top five from each weight class qualify for the PIAA Championships.
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